So many stories of theater are about boys who never grew up, eternal children in search of perpetual lands of make-believe.
For 33-year-old director Beau Bratcher, “Peter and The Starcatcher” presents just that sort of adventure. Opening Friday, Nov. 7, at Le Petit Theatre, the show is Bratcher’s first time helming a show on Le Petit’s official calendar.
“It’s a dream show in a dream situation,” he said.
Writer Rick Elice and director Roger Rees’ elegant adaptation of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s beloved novel of the same name is a grand undertaking involving pirates, treachery, music, plucky heroines and dastardly villains.
And a boy named Peter who refuses to become a man.
A prequel of sorts to J.M. Barrie’s “Wendy and Peter,” “Starcatcher” charmed audiences in its earliest incarnations at The La Jolla Playhouse before moving to New York for successful off-Broadway and Broadway runs.
Featuring 12 actors playing over 100 parts, the show is firmly rooted in the stagecraft of an earlier time, relying less on technical pyrotechnics and more on the power of suggestion and imagination.
Garnering five Tony Awards, “Starcatcher” received a glowing review from The New York Times’ Ben Brantley who compared it to the theatrical events of the 19th century, remarking the show was an “enchanted anatomy of the primal human urge to defy gravity.”
For Bratcher, that defiance of gravity is more than just a physical act. “It gets its lift from that sense of make-believe,” he said.
“It fully engages the imagination of the audience and the actors. That has been one of the most truly rewarding aspects of the rehearsal process: working with all 12 actors and understanding better what their imagination holds.”
Included in that cast is actor/director Ashley Ricord Santos as Molly Aster, a girl that the annotated script describes as “a true leader when girls are mostly followers.”
For Bratcher, Santos’ involvement is emblematic of the collaborators he has entrusted to bring his vision to the stage.
“She is the actress I wanted. This is the cast I wanted. The team I wanted.”
“Putting all their dreams and thoughts together with my own, over the last few weeks, has been one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had.”
The boards at The Little Theatre are not new to Bratcher. Despite not directing for an official season show, the NOLA Project member and managing director has commandeered the helm of a number of productions in the French Quarter space.
The UNO graduate directed both the one-act “Weird” and Tennessee Williams’ “Night of The Iguana” in the theater for his alma mater, and he most recently navigated The NOLA Project’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” as part of The Tennessee Williams Literary Festival.
Therefore, for Le Petit board member and Vice President Leon Contavesprie, selecting a director proved to be a no-brainer.
“We were choosing a director for ‘Starcatcher’ during the production of ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.’ We were so impressed with Beau’s work, Beau’s energy, that we believed he could bring something truly magical to the show.”
Simply acquiring the show proved a coup of sorts for the theater. Largely through the efforts of board member Bryan Batt, its rights were procured before many other organizations were able to secure it.
So, Contavesprie and his fellow board members felt picking the right people to bring the show into safe harbor was crucial.
“Beau and his cast have the energy and talent to make this show what it really is: an exciting piece of theater for the entire family, one that no one in the city has seen on a local stage.”
“And we just know they are going to love it.”
Jim Fitzmorris writes about theater. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.